The Republic of North Macedonia is experiencing a deep social, economic and political  transformation, at the core of which is the membership to joining NATO and starting negotiations  with the European Union (EU). The regional cooperation between the economies of the Western  Balkans at the same time poses new challenges and presents new opportunities for the creation  of a regional economic area, which should ensure a smoother transition for the region into the  EU. While the new opportunities for free trade agreements and the mobility of the labour force  are expected to yield positive benefits most of the economies, including the Republic of North  Macedonia, are faced with internal issues such as selective rule of law, corruption and a lack of  good governance.

1 Regarding Roma integration, the latest EU progress report for Republic of North Macedonia notes  that the “implementation of the Roma Strategy and action plans is slow and much remains to be  done for Roma inclusion in the Republic of North Macedonia.”2 Moreover, the conclusions of the  second National Platform on Roma Integration, jointly organized by the Regional Cooperation  Council Roma Integration 2020 Action Team and the Cabinet of the Minister without Portfolio  responsible for the implementation of the Strategy for Roma 2014-2020 also highlight the lack of  monitoring and the need to improve significantly reporting on and preparation of the Report on the  Implementation of Roma Integration Policies. They indicate a need for greater responsibility  and commitment on the part of the relevant ministries for implementation, the  allocation of more funds from the state budget for implementation of the action  plans, and the targeting of Roma issues in the existing (mainstream) policies.  However,  political processes such as the referendum on the name of the Republic, the presidential elections,  NATO membership and EU accession as well as the new parliamentary elections scheduled for  April 2020 set aside implementation of the Roma Strategy.  

Nonetheless, the Berlin process and the adoption of the Declaration of Western Balkans  Partners on Roma Integration within the EU Enlargement Process (Poznan  Declaration) represent new momentum for the economies of the Western Balkans aimed at  linking the enlargement process with Roma integration. As such, Roma integration is back on  the agenda and the economies of the Western Balkans have reaffirmed their commitment to  achieving the specific targets on employment, health, housing, education as well as civil registration  and non-discrimination. The EU will monitor the implementation of the Poznan Declaration closely  and it will be an integral part of the accession process for those economies requesting to join the  EU. As part of this process, specific roadmaps3 on employment and housing were designed for  all of the economies and included indicators of achievement that should be reached up until the  Western Balkans region integrates into the EU.  

The previous experience of the slow implementation of the Roma strategies in the Western  Balkans underlines the need for a different approach to such an ambitious objective. The current targeted approach to Roma integration policies contributes to the existing narrative  on Roma as beneficiaries of different projects through which funding has been invested but with  no real improvements on the ground. This creates a false impression that reinforces stereotypes  and generates hostility toward Roma in some of the economies. The efforts to mainstream Roma  integration policies into existing strategies also demonstrates that such measures do not reach the  Roma communities, because the criteria for participation in these measures are not adapted to the  needs of Roma.  In this regard, the EU Commission proposes a combination of targeted and mainstream policies  with explicit but non-exclusive targeting as the best approach to achieve higher acceptance and  achievement of the targets. Furthermore, the Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the EU Member States stresses, “that the goals could be achieved either  by means of mainstream measures or by means of targeted measures, including specific measures  to prevent or compensate for disadvantages, or by a combination of both, paying special attention  to the gender dimension […] or by focusing on geographical areas that are marginalized and/or  segregated.”4

Such an approach requires the participation of Roma in the design and  monitoring of the programmes and their adaptability to the needs of the community. This report puts forward the main policy challenges affecting Roma in the Republic of North  Macedonia in the area of education, housing, employment and health. Each of the sections below  analyses the main policy frameworks and regulations in the sector/area with specific focus on  recent and potential policy changes at the level and opportunities for mainstreaming Roma policies  into mainstream policy. Each section concludes with a set of policy recommendations that policy  makers should consider when attempting to mainstream issues pertaining to Roma.  The methodology used in the preparation of this analysis is based on a desk review of existing  documents such as the Programme of the Government for 2017–2020, the strategic plans and  existing strategies developed in the four priority areas by the relevant ministries and the new  reforms that were recently introduced on social protection, labour policy and education. Primary  data was also collected through interviews conducted with representatives of the ministries.5  

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1 European Policy Institute, The Western Balkans’ Bumpy quest for EU integration, p. 23, 2016. Available from http://bit.  ly/2YVN0PW 

2 European Commission, 2019, EU Progress Report for North Macedonia, retrieved from 

3 Regional Cooperation Council, l2019, Roma Integration 2020, Roadmaps 2019-2021. Available from http://bit.  ly/38RQK9S

4 Foundation Secretario Gitano, 2017, How to mainstream Roma inclusion in general programmes, projects and interven tion. Available from  

5 Although we requested a meeting with all of the relevant ministries (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of  Transport and Communication, Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Labour and Social affairs) only two  ministries (Education and Science and Labour and Social affairs) held meetings with the research team.